Tom Clancy’s The Punisher: Without Remorse
Without Remorse is well-known among Tom Clancy book fans to be one of the best in the series. The adventures of former Navy SEAL John Kelly, and how he became John Clarke, perfectly lends itself to a big screen remake.
However, Amazon Studios’ Without Remorse is a complete reimagining of the Clancy novel, much the same way World War Z was compared to the original book. There’s no drug dealers here and certainly no Vietnam. Sure the barebone elements are still in place, and there’s some exciting action along the way, but it’s not really Without Remorse as book lovers will remember.
Instead, what we get is a reimagining that feels like a mash-up of John Wick and The Punisher – complete with a distinct Clancy shine for effect. Ditching the greenery of Vietnam is the cold, inhospitable Russia. The only trouble is, we’ve seen a litany of “Russia is the bad guy” stories recently and here it loses the effectiveness a ‘Nam story could have had.
That’s not to say the film isn’t packed with high-octane action though. In fact the story itself begins with a really thrilling set piece. Within this, John Kelly and his Navy SEAL team set out on a dangerous mission in Syria to recover a captured CIA agent. Unfortunately, the mission goes sideways.
Fast forward three months and Russian soldiers arrive, assassinating all members of Kelly’s team. Kelly himself survives, but unfortunately his pregnant wife is murdered in the ensuing home assassination.
Blinded with rage, Kelly remains determined to exact revenge, working with shadowy CIA agent Robert Ritter and Navy Seal leader Karen Greer. As the trio set off for Russia, they uncover secrets there that could cause global catastrophe for the entire world… unless Kelly and his team can stop the bad guys of course.
From here, Without Remorse takes its intriguing premise and falls into mediocre waters, delivering a by-the-numbers revenge thriller, complete with a big reveal at the end and the prospect of a possible sequel too.
Sadly, Without Remorse doesn’t do enough to stand out in this category. Thankfully, the action is really well shot and there’s some great set pieces at play here. One memorable segment involves a half-submerged plane crash, while a prison brawl perfectly captures raw, intense hand-to-hand combat beautifully. It’s just a shame that these colourful action sequences are muted by the tired mediocrity of the plot.
Michael B Jordan though is actually really good as John Kelly, and he embodies the traits of the man perfectly. His torn and conflicted persona is beautifully illustrated on-screen, and there’s a lot of nuance to his performance. He’s tough, blinded by rage but also shows glimmers of vulnerability too; he is easily the highlight of the film.
As Without Remorse ditches its source material for a more streamlined revenge thriller, this Clancy adaptation fails to stand out. Sure there’s some decent action scenes and Michael B Jordan is great in his role, but everything else feels flat and cliched. This is a far cry from the nuanced novel of the same name, instead playing out like a Tom Clancy-inspired Punisher film.
Without Remorse will be available on Amazon Prime Video from April 30th.